Norfolk Farm Business Competition: Diversity pays off for champions Chapman Farms
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016
A commitment to diversification and a determination to make full use of every available resource has led a family farm near Great Yarmouth to win a coveted business title.
Chapman Farms has won the championship class of the 2016 Norfolk County Farm Business Competition, organised by the Aylsham Agricultural Show Association.
The Chapman family has been farming at Clarkes Farm in Martham for four generations, expanding into Rollesby over the years as the land holding grew to its current 1,500 acres.
And under the current stewardship of James Chapman, 48, it has evolved into a multi-faceted enterprise incorporating arable and grazing land, conservation and woodland, livery, shooting, a country sports shop and commercial and residential lettings.
In spring 2015, Mr Chapman also began a contract farming agreement on 800 acres at the neighbouring Burnley Hall estate – which also gives him management responsibility for a further 3,500 acres at the estate, ranging from grade one arable land to sand dunes and a beach.
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Back on the home farm, every effort is made to fully utilise the farm buildings. Grain stores are sublet in months when the farm does not require them, redundant barns have been turned into housing units, and unused buildings have been converted into two liveries, housing 32 horses.
The retail element, Broadland Country Sports, managed by Mr Chapman's wife Donna and her sister Tina Coe, is now 'ticking over nicely' in its fourth trading year, selling shooting, riding, equestrian and walking equipment.
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Mr Chapman said this diverse range of income streams had helped generate an even flow of income to allow the business to grow.
'I feel it is important because it strengthens the business,' he said. 'If I go to the bank and I want to borrow money, and all I have got is bare arable land, with the commodity prices as they are, they are not going to be very forthcoming.
'That is where the diversification comes in to smooth out the cashflow. It all works together.
'Some of our diversity has happened naturally, in that we have made more use of the buildings we have got, and some has happened financially. The contracting was a financial incentive, but the barn conversions were about making use of assets.
'We have made use of every asset we have got in some way, shape or form, whether it is the barn conversions or the shop or the livery yards, in buildings that are no longer relevant to modern day farming.
'My advice to anyone is look at the wider approach, not just farming, look at doing other things with the resources and grants that are available to excel the business.'
As well as the diversification and environmental elements of the farm, Mr Chapman said the judges, Aberdeenshire farmers Jim Cruickshank and Dave Green, were equally impressed with the quality of the farm's conventional crops.
'We take great pride in getting good crops,' he said. 'The judges were very complimentary – they said we had the most advanced sugar beet they had seen.'
Mr Chapman also applauded the dedication of his staff in the development of the farm business: 19-year-old Sam Playford, 'right hand man' Jim Bailey, 50, and John Hudson, 74, who has worked for the Chapman family for 59 years.
A celebratory farm walk will take place on July 13 at 6.30pm at Clarkes Farm in Martham.
NORFOLK COUNTY FARM BUSINESS COMPETITION 2016:
Champion: Chapman Farms, Rollesby.
Reserve Champion: Heygate Farms, Swaffham.
Livestock: South Pickenham Estate Company, South Pickenham, Swaffham.
Class One (larger farms)
First: Morley Farms, Morley.
Second: Keith Farm Partnership West Barsham, Fakenham.
Class Two (smaller farms)
First: Hirst Farms, Ormesby, Great Yarmouth.
Second: Fowell Bros, Hill Farm, Itteringham.
Diversification: Bayfield Farms, Holt.